Illustration By Rebecca Regan-Sachs

Recently, I asked a few random Hoyas what strategies they used when dating with a lowercase `d.’ I was met with one of three responses:

1) Blank stare.

2) Look of confusion or panic. “Uhhh . dating with a lowercase what?”

3) Short pause. Realization of what concept means. Realization that phrase to describe concept is brilliant. Euphoric expression of joy at concept in general. Desire to start employing concept immediately.

OK, OK, response No. 3 only occurred twice.

Clearly there’s a dearth of knowledge about this process. And if students don’t know about it, how can they possibly practice it? Since ignorance is a weak reason to miss out on such a valuable non-platonic interaction, let me enlighten you:

Dating with a lowercase `d’: On the relationship spectrum, somewhere between hooking up and monogamous commitment (aka: Dating with an uppercase `D’); usually entails traditional type “dates” as well as non-exclusive status.

Are we the only university deficient in this type of relationship? In a completely unscientific poll, I interrogated friends at colleges across the nation, asking: “Do students at your university date with a lowercase `d’?”

Wesleyan Friend: “Not really. But we have `Come as Your Favorite Contraceptive’ parties.”

Northwestern (ex-boy-) Friend: “Um . have you seen the people that go here?”

Princeton Friend: “Not so much. We’re more of a “sex with a lowercase `s'” kind of school.”

Johns Hopkins Friend: “Date?”

One summed up the state of campus dating life by saying: “People are either `married’ or they randomly hook up. There’s nothing in between.”

Nothing in between?!?

I think my mission is clear. Students are obviously bereft and devoid of options. We need a revival of the old-fashioned principle of casual dating. No longer shall your relationship status be single, faithful or cheater! No longer shall you be boxed into a serious relationship just because you want to have something slightly more meaningful than a drunk hookup! No more shall you be derided as a player when you merely wish to keep your options open!

I’m appealing to all undergraduates here: Take Back the Date!!

There are virtually no disadvantages to casual dating. There’s nothing better than making new friends and having new experiences. When else would you walk around the National Christmas tree or see a performance at the Kennedy Center? Oh, sure, you could do those things with your friends. But you couldn’t kiss them afterward!

It’s also one of the best ways to learn about an unfamiliar subject – want to know about med school? Date a med student. Judaism? Date a member of J-Frat. Lacrosse . um . read a book.

Moreover, it’s an effective way to practice interacting with members of the opposite gender (graduates of single sex high schools, I’m talking to you). Keg parties and study groups aren’t necessarily the activities most conducive to perfecting your skills. Dating one-on-one gives you a chance to become comfortable with new people in unfamiliar social situations. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes better. This, in turn, can boost your confidence and self-esteem. Today, a date with your hot lab partner. Tomorrow, a cast member of the Real World .

So why don’t more undergrads date? Is it because of an overwhelming fear of a “sober hookup?” A lack of money, perhaps? (Please. If you have the cash to buy a keg, you have enough to take a girl out.) I believe the answer lies in our culture. As a wise freshman opined, “If you do anything with a guy one-on-one, you’re automatically in an exclusive relationship.” And if you choose to see more than one person in a weekend? “You’re labeled a slut or a player, depending on your gender.”

No, no, no! Casually dating multiple people is an excellent way to hedge your bets – it broadens your dating portfolio. As long as both parties realize the relationship is not exclusive, there is nothing underhanded or immoral about Friday night dinner with Mike and Saturday night drinks with John. Obviously, steer clear of detail-oriented talks about other suitors – Mike really doesn’t need to know that John has a bigger . dorm room.

So how does one go about dating with a lowercase `d?’ For guys, the traditional method is to get her digits and call at least three days in advance of a date. The conversation should be light, brief and concluded with a laid-back question like, “So . Do you want to get together for drinks/dinner/coffee/dessert/activity on day-of-week-three-days-from-now?” This formula should get you through even the most nerve-wracking of pre-date calls.

Needless to say, dialing the girl Saturday night at 11 p.m. with the message that “Yo, Late Night is at Mike’s place” does not count. Sorry laxers.

As for the girls, your job is to say “yes.” Unless the boy is violent, insane or your best friend’s ex-boyfriend, you should give it a chance. Don’t think about whether you want to Date him with an uppercase `D.’ Don’t conclude that he isn’t “your type.” Don’t assume this is the beginning of a long-term relationship that you’re not ready for and even if you were, you certainly wouldn’t have one with a College Republican in the School of Foreign Service.

The point is this – while there are certainly bad dating experiences, there’s no such thing as bad dating experience. Experience allows us to discover what we want in a significant other, what we don’t want and what we’ll run screaming down M Street to avoid. It gives us interesting stories to tell – there’s nothing better than a good Dating War Story. And above all, it’s a damn good way to pass the time.

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